Students from four high Cabarrus County high schools are planning the healthy meals they can create next week as part of the sixth annual Cabarrus Chef Challenge.

Sponsored by Cabarrus Health Alliance, the event is held twice a year and provides an opportunity for aspiring chefs to compete in a Chopped-like event, meet professional chefs and gain experience working in the commercial kitchen at restaurant Forty Six, 101 West Ave. in Kannapolis.

“The Cabarrus Chef Challenge showcases the student’s knowledge of culinary nutrition that is taught and communicated by their teachers and school nurses,” Meghan Charpentier, event organizer and nutrition program coordinator for Cabarrus Health Alliance, said.

The first round of competition is Monday, April 30, from 8 to 10 a.m. between Central Cabarrus and Cox Mill High Schools. Reigning Chef Challenge Champion AL Brown High School goes head to head in the second round of competition with Hickory Ridge High School on Tuesday, May 1, also from 8 to 10 a.m. The finale is Wednesday, May 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. featuring the winning teams from the previous rounds of competition.

Judges for the event are:

  • Gary Gacek, chief of the Concord Police Department;
  • Robert Walter, chef and culinary specialist for Gordon Foods;
  • Mark Allison, chef and director of culinary nutrition for Dole Food Company;
  • Megan Lambert, chef and senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte;
  • Dr. William Pilkington, CEO and executive director of CHA; and
  • Brad Riley, Cabarrus County sheriff.

“This is a great opportunity for aspiring chefs to sharpen their skills and to see what a culinary career requires,” Allison said. “Along with that, the students have fun and create amazing dishes.”

The focus of the event is not only on the culinary arts but also on establishing healthy lifestyles.

“We constantly stress the importance of nutrition from infancy to school age to adulthood at CHA,” Charpentier said. “Each semester, I remain impressed with the team’s creations and their ability to impress a significant panel of judges. The students build leadership skills that help them outside of the kitchen while they cook a nutritious meal, a key to a healthy life.”

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